There are more than 4,000 collection agencies in the United States alone. Some handle consumer accounts; others specialize in business-to-business (B2B) collections, also known as commercial collections. The biggest firms often handle both.
But how can you find the best collection agency? Is there a way to choose the best one?
Some collection agencies specialize in certain industries, such as healthcare, insurance, utilities, credit cards, mortgages or auto loans, while others work for a number of industries. There are agencies that cater to businesses of certain sizes (small business versus large corporation) as well as by region (local or national). Beyond basic collection efforts, some agencies provide additional services, such as billing, telemarketing, accounting or business administration.
It is important to hire an agency with an established track record of successful collections in your industry. The agency should be familiar with the terminology in your industry and the rules or regulations set forth by state or federal agencies governing your industry, if applicable. If you're in the healthcare field, for example, the agency needs to be well versed in insurance requirements, medical terms and important laws like HIPAA.
Here are some other practical tips to help you pinpoint a reputable, effective service.
Ask for referrals from your attorney, accountant or trusted business associates in your industry. Go beyond just asking for agency names. Find out why the person is recommending that particular agency. Does it have a high success rate? Are they known for their strict adherence to laws?
Search the ACA International directory to find a member agency licensed in your city or state. ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collections Professionals, is a nonprofit that establishes ethical standards for the industry and requires that its members adhere to them.
Check the Better Business Bureau for ratings on any collection agency you are considering. One or two complaints can be a fluke; multiple complaints are a major red flag.
Make sure the company is state licensed and/or bonded, if applicable. Many states require one or both.